The beginning of a journey
-- thanking God for the gift of life
-- deciding to start your child on the journey of Christian faith
-- perhaps also a new beginning for you in your journey of faith
A declaration of belief
-- parents and godparents declare their Christian faith
-- they are supported in that declaration by the church
A statement of belonging
-- through baptism the child becomes member of the church of God
-- parents and godparents commit themselves to the church family
-- the church commits its support to you in bring the child up as a Christian
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BAPTISM AND CHRISTENING?
Nothing. Christening is simply a popular name for Baptism.
IS A GODPARENT A LEGAL GUARDIAN FOR THE CHILD?
No. They are quite separate roles (although godparents may be guardians - but is a separate process and decision).
I AM NOT CONFIRMED OR BAPTISED: DOES IT MATTER?
Godparents must be baptised. It is not essential that they are confirmed, but the point is that, as a godparent, you promise to help the child know about the Christian faith. To do this you may want to think about your own Christian faith in more depth, and that may lead you towards confirmation. If in any doubt, come and talk it over with the Rector.
SO, WHAT HAPPENS AT BAPTISM?
There are four parts to the baptism service:
1. Presentation of the Child
When a child is presented for baptism, the parents and godparents – and also the whole congregation – are asked some questions.
First the congregation is asked to welcome and support the child.
Then the parents and godparents are asked:
- to pray for the child
- to be a Christian role model for the child
- to see caring for them spiritually as part of caring for them more generally, and
- to help them be part of the Christian family (the church).
2. Decision & Signing with the Cross
Children are baptised on the understanding that the parents intend to bring up the child to know the Christian faith. So, those who bring a child to baptism are asked to state their own Christian faith as part of the service. This part of the service uses traditional Christian symbolic language of darkness and light to represent evil and good. The sign of the cross is made on the child’s forehead - an invisible badge to show that those who are baptised are united in a special way with Jesus Christ.
3. Baptism with Water
The water in the font is blessed with a prayer that states some of the reasons why water is such a powerful symbol of new life, and what it represents in this service. The whole congregation then says the ancient Christian statement of belief, called the "Creed". Then the baby is symbolically washed in the water as a sign of his/her new life in Christ.
4. Giving of a Candle
Light is an important Christian symbol. In the New Testament Jesus is called " ‘the light of the world". The large candle in the church (the Easter candle) is a reminder or symbol of Jesus, and especially of his resurrection. A smaller candle is lit from the Easter candle and given to the parents (on behalf of the child) to take away. This is to remind you of all has happened in the baptism service, inclusing the promises you have made. This candle can be used as a baptism anniversary candle (light it and explain to your child each year as he or she grows up what it is and where it came from!).
AND WHAT HAPPENS AFTERWARDS?
By baptism a child becomes part of the Christian family, but that is not the end of the story. The baptism of a child looks forward to the time when the child has grown into adult Christian. This is not a matter of forcing children to believe. Rather it is helping and encouraging them to the point where they can make an informed decision for themselves. We hope that they will decide to make for themselves the promises that you have made on their behalf - that is what Confirmation is.
But neither is it a matter of doing nothing at all (on the grounds that they can make their own decision when they grow up). We do not expect a child to make important decisions in other areas of life without appropriate learning. For example, we would not expect a child to know what makes for a good diet without setting a good example and helping the child to learn about food. The life-long process of growth into Christian maturity, which you have begun by bringing a child to baptism is just the same.
WHAT CAN PARENTS AND GODPARENTS DO?
Parents, being obviously so involved with the child's growth and development, have a direct role to play in fulfilling the promises made in baptism. This includes:
One effective way in which to meet these aims is to bring your child to Junior Church (Sunday School) when he or she is old enough.
Godparents, on the other hand, may live some distance away from their godchildren and see them less frequently. Here are some suggestions for how you can still keep your baptismal promises.
If you are not sure about any of this do ask us or your own Minister for help or advice.